From idea to reality, starting a software business

How do you move from idea to reality when you have a thought which could change your life and the lives of those around you.

You don’t have to start a new business to make a difference, you can try do it within the company you’re already in.

Taking a concept from idea to reality isn’t a snap of the fingers.  The article does use generalities as every situation is unique however hopefully this inspires you to have a go and raise some questions.

  • Inspiration
  • Communicating your idea
  • Challenges
  • I’m ready, what’s next

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Inspiration

Waste

Definition

Albert Einstein is generally credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

What does “doing the same thing over and over” mean.

When I worked in a call centre as an IT manager I was given jobs that had broadly the same output.  After the fourth time doing the same job which was taking 2 to 3 weeks to complete I realised I was wasting a lot of my own time.  There’s gotta be a better way I frustratedly asked myself.

 

Dealing with waste

From large to small challenges there are always better ways as a result really bright people have employed tactics through history to help.

  • If you do small jobs ( less than 1 hour to complete ) with no opportunity to improve the process, mass produce.
  • Doing a short repetitive job ( less than 1 hour to complete ) which generally has no opportunity for refinement, automate it
  • Doing a repetitive job yet there is slight customisation to each iteration, isolate the part that changes and automate the rest
  • Longer repetitive jobs ( more than 1 hour to complete) productise them.  Turn them into one click wonders.  This is the basis of reusability.
  • Errors and notifications of frustration are an opportunity to refine, the fixes become features, impossible problems become inventions
  • New technology, materials and the news are simultaneously sources of opportunities and competitive advantage

Life and business throw ideas at you all the time, the trick is having enough perception to see it thrown to you.

 

The Japenese have a word “Muda” which means futility, uselessness and wastefulness all at the same time.  Reducing muda in your life not only improves your life but could help you start your own business.

To move from idea to reality you first need an idea, I use the above all the time as sources of inspiration.

 

Change

Fear

I’ve studied a lot in the area of change.  The very nature of the business we created is change.

Newer and better processes introduce change all the time and that change generally doesn’t sit well with people.  If it is making things better why do people hate change?

For many years my common held belief was that change caused fear.

As a result of my cancer my life changed.  All aspirations and dreams of “from idea to reality” were instantly put on hold.

I watched many movies, read many books and watched a lot of TED and YouTube training after being benched from work with a lump in my brain.

 

I have seen many brave children deal with far more difficult illnesses than mine and it is humbling.  I’ve seen children told “being brave is that you are afraid but you do it anyway”

I had to have treatment including surgery, being in MRI machines and daily irradiation.  Was there fear, yes.  I had to do it or I was dead.  Fear did not stop me as the fear of death was far stronger.  So it is not fear that stops you.  Fear can motivate you.

 

Shame

I found coming back to work far harder than going through treatment.  Life had changed.

Aristotle once postulated “horror vacui” (Nature Abhors a Vacuum).   The business keeps going even when you’re not there.

I wasn’t afraid of work but there my brain was making me feel not right in myself.

After much soul searching it was the fear of shame.  The shame that I was somehow incompetent or lesser than before somehow.  So the fear is a fear of shame, not fear of the thing itself to me was more impactful.  No one wants to be shamed.

When I apply this logic to business it makes management decisions and approaches far easier to understand and manage.

  • A new system means learning all over again and nobody wants to seem foolish that they can’t use the tools in their job
  • Familiarity means expertise.  Starting again brings up childhood and adolescent fears of doing something completely new and not getting it right in front of your peers.  Potentially being laughed at.
  • If I get it wrong and I don’t have it right, how will I be perceived.

If change is thrust upon you, you adapt.  How you manage your emotional response to shame is what will enable you or stop you in your tracks.

What shame stops you bringing your concept from idea to reality?

 

Managing fear

If you’ve ever seen a young child (4 to 8) dance to music they really enjoy you don’t see anything but happiness in them.  They know no shame.

Same bit of music to a 40 year old and they’ll politely sit in the chair and in their mind might dance along.  So how do you get over it?

 

You can try the fearless approach.  “I’m afraid of shame but I do it anyway.”

With this in mind Spotify is going to help.  Listen to various stories and epicly rousing music of how to mentally defeat your own mental barriers.

https://open.spotify.com/user/bendersteong/playlist/7bEEA0NuutlRoIn6eUvd0I?si=BXXcqXk1TDqJv5qCTbZQyg

“Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done.  …  If you can do that gentlemen, then you’re perfect.”  Coach Gains from Friday Night Lights (2004) 

If you’re going to do something different you open yourself up to shame.  It might work and if it does great.  It might not work and if it does you will deal with shame.

The hard reality here is that it is your choice that matters.  Those various speeches on different days remind me that I may be afraid, afraid of being shamed, but that’s all I’m afraid of.

Some people call it having “heart” which is ignoring the fear of shame and just focusing on your goal.

As Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or think you cant, you’re right.”  Living in fear of something happening is just as powerful as bringing a concept from idea to reality.  Your mind can make it happen.

Communicating your idea

Your destination

Take your idea and write it down on a piece of paper, then stare at it.

Sounds simple and stupid but it actually has a few things going on at the same time.

An idea in your head is just that, an image, something floating around in your head.

Something on paper is concrete and as it comes in through your eyes and is a different way into your brain.  In the morning your idea in your head might have faded but what is on the paper has not.

The captain of a ship needs to know where they’re going or the ship will never leave the dock.  Once you have a destination then you can focus on getting there are not having to waste time thinking “where am I going”.  It is always possible to revise the destination but you have to start going somewhere.

This is the source of motivation and if you need some have a read of this.  You have a destination and you just have to get there and bring your concept from idea to reality.

 

My destination

I found it withering that for 4 months in a row I came into work in a call centre to same battle.  As the IT guy I was asked to help start a new campaign every month.

This meant building from scratch a data management solution to deliver that campaign.  Every month had a different script, different data values and different reports.  They had the same general characteristics but it was a “start from scratch” effort every time.

By the fourth one I though what if there was a system that I could press a button, type in a script and boom, there’s the entire system.  It would save me days and days of work.

At the time the business was under pressure to get results out and management became frustrated that I wasn’t outputting fast enough.  The solutions were good but they needed them faster.

 

The company hired a boss to work me harder and at that point I left the business emotionally hurt and offended that someone would think I wasn’t working hard enough.

I by my own inability was left to bring my concept from idea to reality.  At the start no one saw the destination as I didn’t have the skills to fully communicate the vision.

 

That decision of existing management led me to present my idea to a different business man altogether who did have vision.  That man was Nick Wheeler a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

He saw the idea and potential in it but rightly said “It’s an idea, a good idea but we don’t know if it will work.  You will have to prove it.”

From that point I knew what I wanted to prove, I had a destination.

 

Communicating ideas

The skill of it

Sometimes you have the idea in your head and you just can get the words out.  You can see it but other people can’t.

I have found the hardest skill to learn is communication if you don’t have it innately.  Most people need to see something built and working before they “get it.”

This isn’t an indictment of people it’s simply how some people’s brain works.  If you have the idea you need to be able to present it so that other’s can see what you see.

 

Frustration

You will get frustrated that other’s can’t see your idea but that is your failing, not theirs.  You need to learn to communicate your ideas clearly and keep your frustration in check.

Build samples, prototypes or make pictures of your ideas.  If it’s computer code, mock it up.  Help people take visualise your concept to take it from idea to reality.

Pretty is more effective than powerful in communication.  This was the hardest lesson I’ve ever learnt.

 

KISS

As your idea is new by it’s very nature, it is change.  You now have a responsibility for managing the fear of shame of the people you are presenting to.

The expression KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid as a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 has persisted for a reason.

Whilst you may think something very complicated is cool, have you made the fear of someone understanding your idea higher?

Understand who you’re communicating to can be helped by grouping your audience and adjusting your communication to their needs.

Optimising like coming up with a new idea uses the same principles.

 

Challenges

No you can’t

If you fail to communicate your idea effectively you hit the wall of “No”.  Other people quite simply say “No” and so your ideas stop.

Tony Robbins discusses this as part of his Ted Talk (time section 05:16 through 08:00).

He discusses the failure to have the resources and attests that with resourcefulness we will find a way.

Hannibal said to his generals “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam”, “If there isn’t a way, I’ll make one”.   It has been my mantra since 2004 when we started All n One.

If you hit a no, then you have to be resourceful and find a way.  This requires you to self motivate.

Haters

Haters or trolls are people who will not just say “no” but will actively seek to stop you achieving your ambitions.  When you start to troll yourself then you have lost and you need to help yourself.

So there has to be way and whilst far from scientific I provide what I’ve used to help myself.

 

Objectivity

Emotion is very powerful in not only bringing you forward but also holding you back.  You need to keep it in check but that is far easier said than done.

A skill that is insanely helpful in that regard is critical thinking.  Critical thinking is learning to argue for both sides.

Critical thinking argues the sense of ideas and works out the issues that might stop your concept going from idea to reality.

 

I’m ready, what’s next

From idea to reality

This bit is the easy bit….

  • Get a piece of paper
  • Write down your idea
  • Think about what you need to get this done
  • Start doing it

Is it all plain sailing? Oh heck no… but you now have a destination and an idea about how you’re going to get there.

Since 2004 I’ve been getting there and it hasn’t all gone my way.  The lessons are hard and swift but the rewards are equally as great.

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.  Time to take your concept from idea to reality.

 

If there’s anything in this article you’d like to chat to me about you can contact me here or on social media.

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